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Youth Development Fund marks 30 years of helping youngsters reach their potential

Swale Youth Development Fund has celebrated 30 years of nurturing the borough’s young talent.

It traces its roots to 1984, when soon-to-be Mayor Richard Moreton was tasked with deciding his 1985 charity of the year for his civic duties.

As a teacher at Danley Middle School in Sheerness, he wanted to make sure the cause he chose benefited children, especially those who came from poorer backgrounds.

Swale Council
Swale Council

That same year, British ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean triumphed at the 1984 Winter Olympics with their performance set to Ravel’s Bolero.

After seeing how grants from Nottingham City Council helped the skating duo on their road to success, Mr Moreton and his wife Rose decided to form the Swale Youth Development Fund.

In November 1985, it was registered as a charity with the aim of providing financial assistance and equipment to talented youngsters aged up to 21.

Today, it is credited with helping Minster resident Ross Wilson, 17, get a bronze medal for team table tennis at the 2012 London Paralympics, and funding Royal College of Music scholar Andrew Mason.

Last Thursday, dozens of the fund’s trustees, supporters and recipients gathered for a three-course celebratory dinner at Sittingbourne’s Coniston Hotel.

Swale Youth Development Fund recipients with chairman Carole Nealey and Deputy Lieutenant Paul Auston
Swale Youth Development Fund recipients with chairman Carole Nealey and Deputy Lieutenant Paul Auston

Visitors were also treated to performances from young people who have received help from the charity in the past, including a drum solo from Bradley Hales, a song from vocalist Toby Turpin and a dance routine from Lauren Damiral and her cousin Bradley Bird.

The fund’s chairman Carole Nealey, who has been involved in the charity since its inception, said: “It was a fantastic evening, celebrated in the company of just a few of the talented youngsters we have helped in recent years, together with many of the businesses and individuals who support us.

“In particular, we were delighted to have the Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, Paul Auston with us, as his company Checkmate has been very supportive of the fund.

“We were also pleased to have with us MP Gordon Henderson and the Mayor of Swale, Cllr Anita Walker.

“However, the stars of the evening were undoubtedly the young people who came along to chat about their achievements and ambitions.”

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